Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Brand New Cherry Flavor.
Brand New Cherry Flavor, the new 90s Netflix thriller from the creators of Channel Zero, tells the story of Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar), an aspiring filmmaker seeking revenge against a sleazy producer, Lou Burke (Eric Lange). Lisa’s revenge plan involves casting a curse on Burke, as she elicits the help and supernatural expertise of the eccentric Boro (Catherine Keener). While the premise seems straightforward, the series is anything but. Even stars Rosa Salazar and Catherine Keener shared some confusion about the show. In an interview with Collider, Keener admitted, “Yeah, we didn’t know what the hell was going on.” There are steps to casting Lisa’s curse, and the series takes its time in letting it play out. There are also a number of plot detours that seem to divert attention from the main plot but actually add onto the show’s worldbuilding, such as Boro’s backstory. By the end of the series, as most of the main characters reach the end of their arcs and many side characters actually bite the dust, there are still plenty of unanswered questions.
At the beginning of the show, Lisa’s life before coming to Los Angeles is left a mystery for a majority of the series’ run. She tells Burke how her mother left after she was born in Brazil, and her childhood backstory is only returned to at the season finale. Instead, the show prioritizes the secrecy behind her more recent past — the making of her short film “Lucy’s Eye,” which caught Burke’s attention in the first place. When he investigates for himself, Burke meets Mary Gray (Siena Werber), the main character of Lisa’s short film and former lover. They had an intimate relationship on set, and while dabbling in some peyote, Mary committed to her role and cut out her own eye. While Lisa walked away with a short film and the attention of Hollywood, Mary was left behind in a cabin in the woods as a one-eyed actor.
While this may explain how Lisa got to Hollywood in the first place, the secret backstory involving her mother’s disappearance might hold the answers to Boro’s more malevolent plans and the show’s overall mythology. Mid-way through the season, Lisa goes to investigate Boro’s previous life. Lisa thinks that Boro is actually Jennifer, a woman who had left her husband and children years ago. When Boro seemingly accepts this truth and confronts Jennifer’s husband and children, she wipes away their memory by literally picking at their brains and reveals that Jennifer is long gone and that only Boro remains.
Boro explains that, about 900 years ago in the rainforests of South America, a handsome young man “James Dean” encounters a stunning white jaguar, which Boro explains is “a spirit living in an animal body.” The young man and the jaguar have sex and, afterwards, the young man obtains some of the jaguar’s supernatural power. He returns to civilization, becomes a king, and marries a princess. The white jaguar wants something in return for giving the young man some of her power, so she asks for his wife. But when the young man tries to dupe the white jaguar, the spirit-animal kills his wife and nearly kills the young man himself. But “James Dean,” using some of his newfound supernatural powers, transfers his own spirit into the body of a woman. That same spirit has been jumping from one body to the next and has now become Boro.
Boro’s nefarious plot coincides with Lisa Nova’s origins as revealed in the last episode. Lisa accepts that a spirit creature — which has manifested itself as a Channel Zero-esque ghost, a woman without a face, as well as a white jaguar print sofa that has haunted her throughout the series — is her mother. Now Boro’s plan becomes clear. She’s been grooming Lisa’s body, consuming her blood through the kittens that Lisa vomits, to eventually take her over. One can infer that Lisa, having been born in Brazil and whose mother’s identity has been kept a mystery throughout the show, is the child of the original white jaguar that faced off with Boro nearly a thousand years before. If Boro successfully takes over Lisa’s body, she might consolidate her original powers with the essence of the spirit of the white jaguar. All this cosmic, supernatural, and mythological backstory isn’t explicitly laid out for the audience. Instead, the show keeps this in the background while prioritizing the main premise of the show — Lisa’s revenge against Burke.
By the end of the season, Lisa Nova’s curse is a success and her revenge plan is fulfilled. Lou Burke loses the movie, his son, and his sight. Lisa, though offered the opportunity to direct her film, walks away from another producer, Alvin Sender (Patrick Fischler), who seeks to profit off her work just as Burke did. And Boro, who has spent the entire season grooming Lisa’s body for her spirit to take over, settles for the body of Lisa’s lover-turned-enemy Mary.
And yet, Lisa’s future is still uncertain. What awaits her in Brazil? Is her mother actually the white jaguar and is she still alive, hiding out in the rainforest? Will Lisa finally confront her? These questions are left open-ended. However — thematically — Brand New Cherry Flavor still concludes with a satisfying arc for Lisa Nova. She set out to make a film so that her mother would finally see what became of her after she abandoned her as a child. But in the end, it is Lisa who goes in search of her mother in Brazil. With the answers provided by Boro, her curse on Lou Burke fulfilled, and her realization of how her Hollywood dreams weren’t what they turned out to be, she tells an airline attendant that she is “going back home.”
Boro’s future, too, is left open-ended. Now that she’s inhabited Mary’s new, younger body, will Boro follow Lisa to Brazil? Will she continue to pursue Lisa for her body? Or, will she use Lisa to track down her age-old enemy, the white jaguar? These questions might be followed up should the show receive a second season. But there’s something just as sinister and chilling in knowing that Boro, a malevolent supernatural force, is still out there jumping from one body to another. There may be other likely candidates like Lisa Nova who share in supernatural blood. There may be more kittens for Boro to consume and more zombies for her to create.
Sure, leaving so many questions unanswered might be showrunners Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion’s attempt at setting up a season two, but Netflix has branded the show as a limited series. Even if Brand New Cherry Flavor doesn’t receive a follow-up season, the show’s mysteries and refusal to explain everything is part of its appeal. As Zion explained to Collider, “[T]here’s something, as a writer, that’s very satisfying about allowing your audience to fill in the blanks with their own projection. Knowing where to leave those gaps helps you find a way to make the show more resonant to your audience.” While a lesser show might try to provide all the answers by its series finale, Brand New Cherry Flavor holds back on exposition and demands a greater suspension of disbelief, ultimately keeping audiences in suspense.